On 12th August 2022, the world commemorated International Youth Day (IYD). The day’s main aim is to highlight issues affecting the youth as well as acknowledge their role in society and celebrate their advocacy efforts. This year’s theme was on Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages.
Intergenerational solidarity means social cohesion between generations . The theme was timely due to the current limitations ageism has on not only health systems but also on sustainable development. Ageism has a limiting effect on people’s attainment of their potential and meaningful contribution to their communities.
On a global scale, fostering intergenerational solidarity can be a means of improving global health systems as we build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, the pandemic treaty under development by the World Health Organization is being drafted through amongst other lenses, intergenerational solidarity.
In July 2022, the WHO Intergovernmental Negotiating Body announced that the pandemic treaty development will be based on Article 19 of WHO constitution. The only existing framework, previously developed from this article was the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which took ten years to develop and adopt and was only implemented towards the end 2005 . As the pandemic treaty development continues intergenerational solidarity will definitely play a role in the process as the WHO learns from the gains and pitfalls of the FCTC to develop the treaty.
On an Africa Health Systems front, intergenerational solidarity additional plays a pivotal role in improving health systems across all the building blocks, mainly in leadership and governance, health service delivery, health information systems and health workforce.
By 2050, young Africans are forecasted to constitute over a quarter of the world’s workforce. In additional, Africa’s youthfulness is seen to continue growing for the next 50 years, in contrast to other continents having a predominantly ageing population . The African continent has the youngest population worldwide; as of 2021, around 40% of the population is aged 15 years and younger, compared to the global average of 26% .
It is therefore crucial to upscale avenues of empowering young people. This includes not just financial capital to upscale their health solutions, but mentorship on the soft skills required to lead change in the health sector.
Mentorship plays a pivotal role in fostering intergenerational solidarity through completion of the mentorship loop i.e., the need to optimize the two-way-feedback of mentor-mentee engagements; young people needing to equally prioritize reverse mentorship, and also add value to their mentors time and efforts by also sharing their best practices of the modern times with them, just as mentors share their best practices from their lived experiences.
In addition, seniors in the healthcare space need to merge efforts with their younger counterparts through offering them a stepping stone through working together in providing health solutions either through health service delivery or bridging the health workforce gap by offering sustainable avenues of employment for the rising number of healthcare workers being trained on the continent .
Through such efforts, health systems will gradually improve and bridge the healthcare worker to patient ratio. Importantly, improved health systems in Africa shall fast track attainment of the African Union Agenda 2063 goals on attaining the Africa We Want.